I’m always excited to receive a phone call about a potential home renovation project. At the initial meeting I assess the house in need: imagining how the existing floor plan might be reworked, whilst considering the extent of any addition needed and where in relation to the old house it will be positioned.
I am frequently seeing at these initial meetings a big mistake people are making, costing them the chance of a successful project, and possibly costing them a lot more money than necessary. In the hope of preventing more people getting this wrong, I have written this blog post.
The issue arises when the owners have begun some of the renovation themselves: perhaps moved a wall, redone the kitchen, but without consideration to the rest of their project. I understand the desire to update some of the essential areas of a house before you might be in a financial position to do the whole job. But this should only be done with the entire renovation considered first, and this is not happening.
The most common mistake I see is when a new kitchen is fitted where the old kitchen sat. Kitchens are the most expensive room in any house. Whilst this new kitchen is great, it’s in the wrong position for the new addition and rest of the house work. Why? The floors plan in old houses don’t work for modern day living standards. The living room is positioned at the front of the house with no connection to the backyard, the opposite to what we expect nowadays. The kitchens are in their own separate room with no connection to the living area, unlike the open planned kitchen, meals and living in one space that we like today. See the existing floor plan (pre-renovation) of one of my project at Oswald Street below.
By redoing the kitchen within the old house in its original position, and without thought to where the future living room etc will end up, the rest of the project is now dictated by the need to attach the new living space to this kitchen; this might and is usually not possible, and as such the entire project suffers. Or put another way – I have never done a single renovation where the new kitchen ended up where the old one was… I’ve done one project where a brand new kitchen was torn out so the entire project was not compromised. It’s heartbreaking and such a waste. Fortunately in that instance the kitchen was sold, so at least something was recovered and materials weren’t thrown out.
In almost all renovations to old houses, the best solution is a new addition built at the back of the existing house. This provides the opportunity for an open planned living, kitchen and meals, with direct connection to the backyard. See below the new/built floor plan of the same project as shown above.
To achieve this you must first put thought into your future floor plan, before redoing your house. In having a proposed floor plan designed first, it allows your architect to work out on paper how the renovation will work best in terms of:
– Flow – a logical order of various rooms/spaces.
– Zoning – separating noisy living areas from the bedrooms that require quiet.
– Orientation – the best position for capturing north sunlight and creating an energy efficient home to reduce running costs and green house emissions. – Removing the least amount of existing walls to save costs.
Before undertaking your renovation, seek an architect’s advice first. Ideally engage an architect before you do any work, to design your floor plan. With no plan, there is literally… no plan. As with any significant project, you can’t go in blind, you need a plan of attack. Don’t spend tens of thousands of dollars literally in the wrong spot. You will regret it, your house wont function well, you risk spending more than needed, and you devalue your asset by having a poorly designed house to sell when it’s time to move on.